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Apr 09, 2007



Personally, I don't really get an impression that Sony knows exactly what they want to do with "Home" quite yet. When I watched the MTV interview of Harrison, he did make it clear it was designed for gamers, but then did some back-peddling. When asked if there was anything relevant for the MTV viewers:

"it's not just about game brands, it could also be a record company, it could be a building space, it could be a cool nightclub building space. It's just 3-D Graphics, it's really easy to build out. "

"it could be a building space" sure sounds like Second Life ambitions. Then again, "it's just 3-D graphics" doesn't sound like Sony quite has a handle on just how complex a Metaworld is. (Metaworld = a Metaverse Virtual World, distinguished from a gaming VW, etc.)


Also, it may be for gamers but the environment is very social. You are expected to have conversations with other gamers to set up future competitions, but i think there will be more social interactions going on than that.

The older game connector software had no conspicuous consumption element and rare social connections. So i think "home" will be different in those areas.

I am very interested if it meets danah boyd's definition of Social Network Site.


I initially figured Home for a console-version, slimmed down SL clone with none of what makes SL cool, i.e. the infinite user extensibility.

But if you figure that Home is nothing but a 3D matchmaking service and launch pad for games - which is arguably the easiest goal for Sony to meet, and likely the one that will be quickest to for them to realize - isn't that still pretty cool? How is that inferior to, for example, Dungeons and Dragons Online, or Puzzle Pirates? With just a little bit of tweaking to the Trophy system, Sony could build public profiles of gamers, represented in Home, so that if you have difficulties with a particular spot in a particular game you could LFG with the intent of finding someone really good at that game to coach you through it. With a meta-game like Home to track and display your total progress as a gamer, I suspect people will be buying more obscure titles in a given genre in addition to the usual Top 10, just to gain that extra level in "Puzzler" or "Headshot Expert".

With a sufficient level of adoption, game developers could even use the Home system in their games - if they detect that a particular player kicked butt in Jak and Daxter V, unlock a harder mode in J&D VI. Of course, you could do this earlier with systems that checked your gamesave stick for previous saves, but having persistent storage on Sony's server would make the process much more seamless. Games that allow you to customize your avatar could give you an option to simply import the one from Home. Like with the Wii and the personalized settings stored in your Wiimote, Home could bring Sony that degree of avatar persistence and identification which I think will play a big part in console gaming in the future.

With a sufficiently controlled environment (for example, the ability to detect the use of cheat codes or GameShark type devices) Sony could give unique Home-based rewards to the top players of a particular game. Want a virtual castle? The castle is available for free to the person who ranks highest at MGS4 only, and keeping it means you have to continue holding the best rank.

Their free-access, micropayment for in-game perks system is of course also ingenious. I wonder how much money they could make by placing pay-by-song public jukeboxes playing Sony/BMG music alone. The question is how a giant low-brow behemoth like Sony would be nimble enough to pull off a system like that, but with Home at least the infrastructure is there to do it if they get their act together.

Anyway, I've been convinced that there are amazing opportunities with Home. Most of them Evil, of course (this is still Sony we're talking about) but an Evil you can admire, if that makes sense.


It does make sense. This is the emerging Asian model that I mentioned in a previous post : it allows the social network to take precedence and makes the games secondary, a move which might keep the social networks from disintegrating when people decide to move to a new game. In this case, switching costs are still incurred but players benefit from the variety of play options. In fact, players may congregate and may opt to play a game, or to engage in some other social or cooperative activity. Still, it's more akin to a graphical Xbox Live than to Second Life, I think, or at least, more likely to be used that way... I mean, if there are actual games to be played, will people spend that much time decking out their virtual pads? I'm definitely curious...


I don't see how it's a game; it's a world. There aren't quests, loot, monsters to fight. Not a game.

User-generated content doesn't HAVE to be cubes, prims, scripts, graphic art. That's the take on it that Linden Lab and their followers have imposed with the privileging and promotion of the tiny percentage of residents who are developers.

But user-generated content can be the social networks, the relationships, the households, the interactions, the *life* that people make for themselves in virtual worlds, too. The room somebody makes out of the company's generated inventory is "user content," too, as much as everybody might roll their eyes over that here. It's non-inventoriable content; but it's even more important to people than the inventoriable content at the end of the day.

If Home ensures people nice-looking, non-lagging spaces to decorate and interact in, they will flock there. They will love it. Second Life will not only lose its existing hardy residents who have clung to their crashing servers, a lot of the people who bail from SL because it's too hard will be won over by Home, too. They may not find the open-creativity and land market that developers and land barons value, but they will find what is most attractive about these worlds in the first place: other people. And other people that a company has bothered to make findable and interactable, and other people that the company has bothered to make civil through control of content and behaviour. It's not appetizing to all the nihilists and hedonists of Second Life who drive the discussion always, but it might be a welcome respite from what Valleywag has aptly called SL's "freaks and adolescent pranksters".


I agree with Prokofy. I will just add one more example.

If the users in Home are there because they are PS3 players, then the place will also act as a portal *between* games - something that I suspect will be very important in the allegedly-coming-soon metaverse.

It will mean that a group of people who become friends while playing Game A, will be able to hang out, outside the confines of the game, and then decide - as a group - to see what all the fuss is about Game B.

This will enable the decision to play a specific game to become a social decision, which will in turn make the community much more important and engaging for many people than the prospect of texturing a few cubes and calling them a castle.


Am I totally misunderstanding what I've read about the PS3 service? I'd understood that it was pretty much non-persistent to the extent that your character's home and other artifacts are only accessible to anyone when you yourself are logged-in?


I have ended up having a lot of discussion about PS3 Home, for me it is going to be a richer version of what happens with the xbox 360 Live accounts. There you have friends, some bragging rights on games and way to show off your gmain achievements.
Its flat, 2d, but available to the external web to share the information.
So for me my Home apartment looks like it will allow people to come in and see what I have been up to, and to engage is meta challenges.
Also a quick a clever way to share photos and videos with the PS3 being the delivery hub.
Public hang out spaces feel like they will be ok, maybe integrated game lobbies.
It will certainly up the ante for any virtual world as people will find new uses for it, as Prokofy points out, user created content is not just prims.
The sort of meta challenges and bonds that form across games and experiences such as this
could be added to with more things to experience.
Once its present it may well morph from lobby to metaverse we shall have to wait and see.

We don’t give users the level of influence over the environment, behaviour and object definitions that Second Life does – it’s as secure as any other PS3 game…

Do I see loud and clear statement about connection between no user generated content and security?

No doubt that prebuilt worlds could be more secure in technical way than user generated. But, what happened to freedom and creativity? Echo of this sentence sounds something like: “We’ll give you nice clothes and dances and apartments. We’ll provide you all the copyrighted music and video. Now you can enjoy your consumerism in virtual world. You can sit with your friends in virtual room we designed for you and listen and watch what we think you should like.” Again, what happened with freedom and creativity?


User generated content does not matter. What matters is good content, regardless of who produced it. As a consumer all I care about is whether or not the game is fun, not whether or not it was produced by someone I know.

What's more, who is likely to produce good content? Professionals, who work at it day after day and accrue experience and polish, or amateurs who get to it after dinner when the kids are asleep?


Looks like a world to me, but with most of the framework pre-canned, which should guarantee pretty good look and feel. WorldsAway did this pretty successfully with public areas well designed by the firm and private "turfs" available to users for put their own stuff (stuff designed by the company). This could work well, especially if they can entice game players to meet inworld while off-game and jump between games after their social break? A convergence model here?


(In Singapore, en route back to the US): The possibility of convergence that Bruce mentions is very interesting - the question of course being convergence of *what?* Many possible answers, but the one I'd put near the top of the list at least is the idea of place-making (a point many have emphasized, not least Richard Bartle in _Designing Virtual Worlds_). The idea that virtual worlds are places is one of the things that folks without experience "in them" find hard to grasp, but I think it's absolutely central, possibly more than the issues of avatar selfhood that also receive deserved attention. No coincidence that so many have names including terms like "home," "there," and "world"...


"What's more, who is likely to produce good content? Professionals, who work at it day after day and accrue experience and polish, or amateurs who get to it after dinner when the kids are asleep?"

You don't have to ask the question, you can decide with your wallet. Some "amateur" content creators may also be professionally qualified in their field, and just not happen to work for the Mother Company. Or does someone want to bring up the Counter Strike thing again?


Ace Albion wrote:

"You don't have to ask the question, you can decide with your wallet. Some "amateur" content creators may also be professionally qualified in their field, and just not happen to work for the Mother Company. Or does someone want to bring up the Counter Strike thing again?"

I only pointed out that it's more "likely" that the top quality stuff will come from professionals rather than amateurs, not that it's impossible. I'm playing a charming little game called "Cave Story" right now which was produced by a single individual. I think my original response to the Counter Strike thing still stands: a group of ten pros working their day jobs are inevitably going to be more productive than an equal number of amateurs who only get to work after the kids have been put to bed. Remember that lone individual who programmed "Cave Story"? It took him five years.


@lewy, ace, etc.:

I'm very interested in the question of how UGC plays out in the virtual worlds space. Trying to shape IP policies around the emergence of digital UGC has been one of my regular writing topics, but I have yet to write something specific about UGC and VWs.

It seems to me, based on conversations we've had here over the last four years (see this post, for example, that there's some consensus that VWs are much more *marketable* (note, I'm not saying better, I'm just talking about $$$) when the designers guide the way the user creativity takes shape.

At the same time, there's a great deal of *market* demand for expressive agency on the part of players -- people want to be able to shape their worlds.

And I think this is really a much different issue in VWs than it is with most UCG Web 2.0 plays. Flickr is great. And it started via Ludicorp.

But if you adopt the UGC crowd-sourcing model of Flickr and apply it to VWs, you get something that's Second Life compared to World of Warcraft. And Home is something more toward the latter, albeit social. I'd be curious to see the way the market reacts to something that occupies a middle ground.

And who knows -- Harrison might be saying Home won't don't that, but as Hiro said in the first comment, I don't know if Sony really knows exactly where they'll be going with this.


p.s. This study is recent & relevant re the power of UGC in the non-VW setting.


Well, lewy, who is more likely to produce great content- the skilled amateur who takes their time doing it with love, or the professional hack who needs to churn out any old crap that'll pass the bar in time for the publisher deadline while thinking how small her wage is? Can we try some more loaded questions?


Ace Albion wrote:

"Well, lewy, who is more likely to produce great content- the skilled amateur who takes their time doing it with love, or the professional hack who needs to churn out any old crap that'll pass the bar in time for the publisher deadline while thinking how small her wage is? Can we try some more loaded questions?"

I'd guess the skilled amateur. The problem is that the gaming industry is filled to bursting with skilled professionals who do their work out of love, as well as hacks who churn out "any old crap". I know some guys in the industry. One of them was interviewed on Gamespot and my first thought was "He looks like Hell". I'm sure he could be making a lot more money writing commercial business software, but his love for what he's doing allows him to keep going despite the fact that he looks like he's about to die from the stress and work.

When I run down the list of games that deeply impacted me I'm hard put to find any that were made by skilled amateurs. Final Fantasy VII, Half Life 2, Shadow of the Colossus--these are games that took not only a huge amount of blood and sweat but also a huge amount of time, and it shows in the final product.

It's not a loaded question to point out that a pro who works for 12 hours a day on a game is only putting in 4 hours of overtime. How is an amateur supposed to put in 12 hours of work a day on a game and hold down another job?


They work four hours a day, for three times as long. The n you realise that maybe there are 10 of these amateurs to every pro in the industry, if only because the industry pays badly and the "amateurs" all make money writing banking databases or corporate web logos. Or not, but when those "barriers to entry" get lower, more and more people create. In those cases, it doesn't matter that they have to take their time, there's a regular stream of stuff being made just through sheer weight of numbers. More chaff meaning potentially more wheat.

We're not even touching on the typical stories of game development and deadlines. KOTOR2 for example, may have been created with the best will in the world on the part of the developers, it was still chopped up and sent out before it was finished, to meet deadlines.

Just yesterday, Jim Rossignol posted on the AB site about STALKER:
"There are some Stalker mods out now like realism http://www.gameborder.com/game/S.T.A.L.K.E.R.%20Shadow%20of%20Chernobyl%20Realism%20Mod
and another AI one too, that improve the game a fair bit. Stuff like being able to kill people with fewer bullets and the enemy not noticing you quite so quickly (making stealth easier). Makes me laugh that the community comes up with major, worthwhile gameplay changes within a couple of weeks, while GSC took four years to deliver something so flawed."

Maybe the ideal recipe is end user adaptation of groundwork laid by professionals, but to dismiss the whole thing as being unlikely to provide the same quality, I think is a little much.

Is there much of a difference between someone who, for example, works for Lionhead (professional, paid staff), and someone who used to work for Lionhead, but now works a part time job while developing their dream game independantly, or even just sucks up a huge remortgage to do it?


You could say that Home will have user generated content inside peoples' houses. It's similar to housing in DAOC or EQ2, offering a place to put game-designed objects and trophies. How people choose to organize it could be considered "user generated."

I'm looking forward to Home because I am interested in meeting other players who are in my age group. It's impossible to do that with the game matching services we've got today on the ps3.


First we have to define "content," then we have to define "generated." I think we're clear on "user," but there are some grey areas there we could get jiggy with if we really wanted to.

One of the most appealing aspects of SL to many people I know is the ability to control the look of the avatar to an incredible degree of granularity; everything from body size, type, fat, facial features, hair, height, eyes, etc. on to clothes at several levels, skin, tats, jewelry, footwear, underwear, etc. etc. That level of control wasn't available before SL in any other sim I'm aware of. You want to talk about user created "content," the personalization of one's avatar is, imho, the single most compelling aspect of "content" in a VW. It's what pisses me off most about Yahoo IM -- I can't be old and bearded. My first question after messing around with the native controls in SL (this is several years ago), was, "This is so cool! Can I be a quadraped?" At the time I couldn't. Now I can.

Ideas of content creation move out from there, I think, for many people. The "private space" and then the "shared space" is very important to many. Can I have a room or a house that is mine that I can come back to? Will it be permanent? Can I put stuff there that is meaningful to me and guests? Can I have guests? How much can I mod the space? Are the modifications "kit" based (essentially sliders), or are they true tools? And how tight are the rules.

Then we move out into shared aspects of content. Will other people's spaces have an affect on mine (e.g., will my lovely, 16th century Japanese villa's view be obstructed by spinning "Impeach Bush" signs?). And will people be able to do "things" that impact my space; ie, play music, have chats, camp out, on "my land."

Is there a public, shared area and is there content there that is personalizable? How do my mods and yours get along and play nicely?

None of these issues touch on the question of whether the initial "chunks o' stuff" are provided by the publisher, or majicked out of thin air by the user. If I "get" a toon, a house, a plot o' land, a suit of clothes, and 47 "furniture blobs," all of which are infinitely modable through 406 very granular sliders... to the point where you can be a cat living in a tree at the bottom of a pond, and I can be Princess Grace living in a castle surrounded by shoes...

Who cares? Just like Prok said.

The *experience* is the final content. As to whether "users" or "professionals" can create a better experience, that will depend entirely on what experiences you are trying to provide, and over what period(s) of time.

If you told me I had only one space, one MMO/VW to choose for the rest of my life, I'd pick SL, even though I don't spend much time in it right now. Because, simply, it is so open and the tools so granular and available for my use/mis-use. If you told me I only have 12 hours, over the next 3 days, to play a game... I might choose WoW or something else even less complex.

I do think PS3 Home will erode some of SL's base. There's a lot of dancing going on in SL. And Sony makes some pretty, pretty animations.


Ace Albion wrote:

"They work four hours a day, for three times as long."

Consider something like Half-Life 2. That took at least a couple of years to complete. Three times as long is six years. Scanning the credits for the game, I was impressed with how many people were involved--at least a hundred. Is a free project really going to be able to withstand the centrifugal forces associated with keeping a hundred people working together on a free project for six years?

That's not to say that there isn't a place for amateurs, but clearly a large and ambitious project on the scale of Half Life 2 is not that place. If I run down the purely subjective list of my favorite games--Final Fantasy VII, Out of This World, Half-Life 2, etc.--I can't think of one off the top of my head that wasn't created by a professional studio. That seems to me to be a pretty good indicator of which camp is probably going to produce a higher quality of stuff. It seems to me that the cutting edge is always going to be blazed by professionals. The amateurs follow behind, building mods (Counter Strike) or utilizing older technology (Cave Story).

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